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Sports groups should embrace fair play


Last week, someone within the Sport Newfoundland and Labrador network exposed a very ugly side to their organization. Leaking private information about a 12-year-old as a defence against fair comment is simply not right. As a parent of a young athlete, I have been an eyewitness to the way Sport NL and some of our province’s sports organizations conduct themselves. I would strongly suggest that we leave the kids out of it. I would challenge Sport NL and suggest they acted inappropriately, failing to meet a standard of professionalism.

In this case, for reasons unknown Alpine NL decided it was better to leave three spots vacant on the boy’s 2015 Canada Games alpine race team rather than take a full squad to Prince George BC.  I had the good fortune of attending the Games and it was a positive experience that should be shared by as many Newfoundland kids as possible. Sad to think that three funded seats where left empty.

The selection process for the Canada Games was the subject of several frustrating meetings and three appeals. The first protest was filed by the entire Marble Mountain Race Team executive. Alpine NL’s decision to refuse a fair opportunity for all of the province’s racers to try out was appealed as was their decision to select underage athletes over age-eligible skiers. Standards for selection seemed at the time to be different for the boys vs. girls. The debates were typically mired by the suggestion of favouritism and the obvious conflicts of interests that existed. As is so often the case, the discourse degraded and several members seemed to have lost perspective. It would have been helpful, had there been a clearer dissemination of process and an adherence to regulations and rules. Perhaps, the destructive influence of conflict could have been avoided.     

Subsequently, appeals were forwarded to Alpine NL on behalf of one boy’s father, our MP, and on behalf of all other like-minded parents such as myself. I had already become disillusioned with the process and was not surprised when it, too, was refused. Regardless, a formal appeal was filed with Sport NL. The appeal was refused. Why? Because, as we learned, any provincial sporting body that simply chooses not to adopt any rules can’t be held accountable to rules that don’t exist. Amazing!

Sport NL says it speaks to sport excellence, transparency and fair play. You decide. Alpine NL received tens of thousands of public dollars from the provincial government over the last four years in order to prepare a provincial ski team for the 2015 Canada Games.

After four years of accepting Canada Games grants, Alpine NL admittedly failed to communicate selection criteria until the last minute. The official tryout for the team didn’t happen until mid-December of 2014 — seven weeks before the Canada Games!  Selection was based on a single event. The standard applied would be in contravention of Sport NL’s recommended standards for selection fairness. I would expect Sport NL would ensure that athlete selection for the Canada Games was timely, objective and have the appearance of being fair.  

Many, many parents were talking to our MP over the Christmas period and early January about the negative, locker-room culture of the provincial sport scene that seems to serve the interests of select number of adults more so than the majority of kids. I was one of them. And we all know that this is larger than downhill skiing. How many other kids in other sports face exclusion, manipulation or process confusion? We should be able to expect a more constructive response from Sport NL.

Kids need to know that they have a fair chance to succeed. Parents need to have confidence that they are sending their kids into an environment that is worthy of their support. It’s not easy getting kids to the hill, the gym, the rink or the pool. And it’s expensive. Parents invest a lot of money and time.

Sport NL should be the one agency that understands “fair play.” It’s not fair play to make information public that relates to an appeal and a child. Our MP followed the rules and was chastised by the very bodies that established those rules. That’s not fair play and it should be challenged.

Joe Dicks

Steady Brook

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